Sport shooting #2 – Field Position

Or, “Where to stand…”

One of my goals in shooting sports is to get images that you can’t get as a spectator. Not only do I want to freeze the motion of the players, I’d like to get perspectives that are different from what you usually see. And I’d like to create images with as few distractions as possible.

Location has a lot to do with that. The following assumes that you are shooting a sport that takes place on a field or court, but the basic principles should apply to most sports.

Where does the action take place?

First off, you’ll want to figure out where the action that you care about takes place. If you are shooting soccer, the majority of the action takes place in the midfield, though shots and scoring take place at the ends.

In girl’s lacrosse, on the other hand, the majority of the action occurs near the goals, though this varies depending upon the specific rules that are in effect for the game (the rules are different for different ages).

So, it pays to be an informed spectator.

What do I want to cover?

I’m typically shooting to try to capture the whole game, and ideally that will feature all the players on the team. I’ll shoot from different spots so I can get both defensive and offensive players, and do this in both halves so I can get the outside players when they’re close to me.

If you are shooting for a single player, you will probably make different choices.

Where am I allowed to stand?

Different sports at different levels will put different constraints on where you can be. My goal is to remain within the league rules, and to conform to the desires of the coaches and the officials. The more official the sport, the more serious people are going to be about photography.

If you’re just getting started, it’s a nice courtesy to talk to the officials before the game, tell them what you’re planning on doing, and let them know that they should let you know if you are doing anything they’d prefer you not to do. Same with the coaches.

If you are allowed on any part of the endlines, try to stand at least 10 yards off the end of the field. This makes you much less obvious and intrusive.

Finally, you will likely run into parents who will avoid this, and go into places where they shouldn’t be. My advice is to ignore them.

Sun and Background

If the sun is mostly overhead, the sun direction is less important, but if it’s low, you will get much better results if you shoot with the sun behind you. If you are lucky enough to be able to shoot late afternoon games that are sunny, you have an opportunity to get sun that will get inside helmets or other headgear and a nice golden color, and my advice is to do what you can to take advantage of it.

In other situations, the background is going to have more of an impact on the quality of your shots. Take some time looking around the field when you arrive and decide what direction you prefer to get the best backgrounds. The ends of fields are often pretty clear, so shooting from the ends can be a benefit.


In many cases, you’ll want to use the standard “standing up” position, and I do this a lot when I’m moving around between positions. But look for different perspectives – last year I took some nice shots from a high balcony about 50′ above a field, and I regularly take shots lying down at the end of the field (but only on dry turf fields…).

Special situations

Shooting goalkeepers is hard. They are facing away from the endlines, and they’re a long way away from the sidelines, and even if you have enough reach to capture them, they’re often facing the other side. And they may not be very busy during some games.

The solution is to go out on the field and shoot them during warmup. That gets you 20 yards from them instead of 50, and you can easily get 50-60 nice shots in a few minutes.


You’re either a photographer, or you’re a spectator. If you’re out close to the field, you should act like you’re part of the field – no cheering, no talking to the players, etc. It’s a privilege to be out there, so don’t abuse it.

So, what do you think ?